U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

March 26, 2022

The Cost of War (Ukraine)

March 26, 2022

Dear Fellow Marylander,

As I write, much of the world has been turned upside down by Russia’s unprovoked and unconscionable invasion of Ukraine, which was launched just over a month ago.

In four bloody weeks of warfare, we have seen tens of thousands of people killed – mostly Ukrainian civilians and Russian soldiers. We have seen more than 10 million people displaced from their homes and four million have suddenly become refugees in other countries. Savage Russian bombing has razed the city of Mariupol and destroyed massive parts of other Ukrainian cities.

Ordinary life in Ukraine has abruptly ended, as every single person has been swept up in the defense of the nation or the movement of women, children and the elderly or disabled to safety in nearby countries. People are hungry, scared, and cold. Yet, remarkably, the people of Ukraine have not yielded to the bloody assault by the Russian military. They have stiffened their resolve, assisted and comforted their neighbors, learned new skills and heightened their patriotism. Late this week, the Ukrainian military has started to push the Russian forces back , reclaiming territory that had been seized around Kyiv and in other areas. Unlikely as it seemed at the outset, brave Ukrainians may yet repel the invaders, with continuing assistance from the U.S. and our allies.

President Biden has led the Free World in standing up to Russia in a remarkable display of smart diplomacy and economic statecraft. Without committing American troops to do battle with Russians, he has galvanized NATO to redeploy forces quickly to the eastern flank of the alliance, to shore up those formerly communist countries who have since the end of the Cold War democratized their politics and modernized their economies to join the European Union. The Biden administration has coordinated with the industrialized democracies of the G-7 countries and beyond to impose the most comprehensive and effective economic sanctions on Russia (and Belarus, its only ally in this conflict).

The cost to Russia has been considerable, as the sanctions have cut the country off from the global economy almost overnight. Prices have risen. banks have closed, credit cards no longer function – and imports have disappeared while most American companies have closed their operations in Russia.

True to form, Vladimir Putin has doubled down on domestic repression at the very same time. He shut down the few remaining independent media outlets , including Meduza, TVDozhd, radio station Ekho of Moscow and TV2. You may not have seen much about this on our local news broadcasts because CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and other international outlets all have suspended their work in Russia because it is now illegal to report on the war. Really.

Putin also requires state television to present a distorted narrative about what is happening in Ukraine – even prohibiting broadcasters from using the word “war” to describe the carnage he has wrought on the country next door. Peaceful Russian protesters against the war quickly have been arrested, fined and imprisoned. Women walking in a public square have been arrested for being “potential protesters.”

The unprovoked killing of Ukrainians is ghastly and unforgiveable. The war has been costly on the Russian side, as well. More Russian soldiers have lost their lives in the last month than the U.S. lost over 20 years in Afghanistan and Iraq. Though numbers are hard to verify, it appears more than 15,000 Russians have been killed

– mostly young conscripts who did not know they were going to war. In addition, there have been detailed reports that several generals have been killed. Russian military vehicles, destroyed and debilitated by Ukrainian defenses, litter the country.

Congress has been active during this last month, providing the president the tools he needs to present the strongest hand against Putin and to support our allies. I have sponsored a bill to create a “lend lease” program to expedite delivery of military supplies to Ukraine, another to deprive Russia of its access to U.S. markets, and another to cut off the import of oil and gas from Russia. I am in close touch with President Biden and his team, calling on the administration to be forward-leaning in every regard – without sending U.S. troops onto the battlefield.

The Congress heard an address directly from President Volodymyr Zelensky last week, and he was as impressive as you have seen on TV. Zelensky is smart, brave, articulate and focused. He is rallying his country to resist, to innovate, to stand tall. And his people have responded with a roar. The contrast could not be greater between this impressive young leader in a time of crisis and the would-be Moscow dictator.

Putin is afraid – of his own people and of the West – and he is a war criminal of the vilest and most dangerous kind. The random bombing of innocent civilians on his orders should be enough to bring an indictment at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and there is so much more.

As the world continues to put pressure on Russia to put an end to this war-of-choice and the killing of innocent civilians, I wanted you to know that the United States is doing all we can to provide Ukraine with the tools it needs to fight back against its Russian invaders – without escalating this conflict into World War III.

As we see the situation unfold before our eyes, I encourage you to show your support for the Ukrainian people. I also have been hugging my loved ones a little tighter recently, as I see so many families in distress. It should not take a deadly war to make us all appreciate how fragile life is, but that is the world today.

Thank you. Stay safe.

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Ben Cardin


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